France power to victory against spirited Wales

Guinness Six Nations

Wales 24-45 France

France powered to a morale-boosting 45-24 victory over winless Wales in the Guinness Men’s Six Nations

The game swung back and forth but Wales wilted under France’s physical pressure late on, conceding 25 points inside the final 20 minutes.

Wales had earlier started brightest and scored an opportunistic first try through Rio Dyer. Gael Fickou hit back for France and the sides traded two further tries before the break, with Tomos Williams and Player of the Match Nolann Le Garrec also on the scoresheet.

France led at the break by virtue of Thomas Ramos’ two penalties to opposite number Sam Costelow’s one, but Wales hit the front early in the second period through new boy Joe Roberts.

That score, in the 44th minute, proved to be Wales’ last. The French forward replacements flattened an already tired defence, with replacement prop pair Sebastien Taofifenua and Georges-Henri Colombe registering rare scores at the Principality Stadium.

Maxime Lucu then scored France’s fifth try at the death to haul France above Scotland and into third in the table on points difference.

It took all of 40 seconds for turnover machine Tommy Reffell to add to his Championship-high tally. Costelow duly rewarded his flanker’s efforts with the first three points of the afternoon.

Nolann Le Garrec crosses over for France.

Wales did not let an immediate response from the boot of Thomas Ramos phase them and re-established their lead through Dyer.

Of all the players Wales could have wished for a loose ball to fall to Dyer is probably at the top of the list and the speedster showed why, snaking his way through a jagged France defence to score under the sticks.

A telling first scrum then went the visitors’ way and set up Ramos for a second penalty which settled early French nerves.

They soon hit the front for the first time through Fickou, the centre touching down in the corner after a combination of brute force and deft hands proved too much for the Wales defence.

While their defence struggled, the attack flourished and an immediate response reclaimed the lead as scrum-half Williams raced onto an inside pass after a great break from towering centre Owen Waktin.

But it turned into the Le Garrec show as half time approached. The scrum half, on his first Test start, first put a dangerous kick through which Cameron Winnett could only carry back across his own goal line.

France worked the home defence brilliantly from the five-metre scrum and Le Garrec dived over from close range to push France ahead, establishing a 20-17 lead they would hold until the interval.

Before the orange segments could be served, Le Garrec produced an obscenely audacious 30-yard reverse pass which very nearly led to a third try, but Louis Bielle-Biarrey was shut down in the nick of time as France finished the half in the ascendancy.

Joe Roberts stretches to score the third try for Wales.

The break came at the right time for Wales and they emerged re-energised, scoring the first try of the second period through new boy Roberts.

The centre, on just his second cap, looked to have blown an overload out wide but Roberts scrambled over and Costelow converted to make it 24-20.

France scored the next points but Wales did well to limit their guests to just a penalty. Thibaud Flament was denied a try after a TMO review and referee Luke Pearce then awarded Wales a free kick from the resulting scrum for an early drive.

Their resistance finally broke when Ramos kicked his third penalty of the match but the warning signs were there for the hosts.

The French pack, buoyed by some size from the bench, were making their presence felt and it was one of the newcomers who got them over the line.

A wide break from Damien Penaud was finished off by tighthead Colombe and victory was assured when fellow replacement Taofifenua used all of his 6ft 8in frame to charge down a Gareth Davies box kick and score France’s fourth try of the afternoon.

Ramos added another penalty to carry his side to the 40-point mark before replacement scrum-half Lucu added an extra gloss to the scoreline after exchanging passes with Penaud in overtime.

Wales now face a wooden spoon decider with Italy who travel to Cardiff next Saturday while France host England in Lyon later that evening.


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